With the Vancouver Pride Festival coming up this weekend, a growing number of corporations have been participating in the parade, as well as sponsoring Pride events and running ad campaigns featuring rainbows and same-sex couples.

David Hardisty, an assistant professor of marketing at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, discusses what motivates companies to jump on the Pride bandwagon.

Why are brands interested in aligning themselves with LGBT pride festivals?

It’s identity marketing – people choose brands that match either their actual self or their ideal self. Clearly, this can help companies earn the support of people who identify as LGBT – their actual self – but I think it’s broader than that. LGBT rights and equality are a social issue that’s really cresting right now, with overwhelming support here in Vancouver and, increasingly, across North America – especially among young people. And young people are coveted by companies hoping to earn themselves loyal customers for life. Even young people who aren’t part of the LGBT community often identify with the movement, so being pro-equal rights is part of their ideal self.

So is it all about the return on investment?

Not entirely – I think it’s a win-win for the companies. Yes, they do hope for a bump in profits, but it’s also the right thing to do, so they feel better about investing in Pride activities than in regular marketing campaigns. Plus, it can be good for the company culture. It shows they’re an inclusive company, which could make it easier for them to hire a broad range of talented employees.

Does this mostly just happen in more LGBT-friendly markets like Vancouver?

I think that in the past that might have been the case, but I feel this issue is changing so quickly and gaining such mass popularity that companies are more inclined to go with a global rollout of an LGBT-positive campaign. A lot of companies want to be on the forefront of this issue rather than trailing behind it. That being said they may well be a little quieter about it in other regions, without singing a completely different tune. From a pure marketing perspective, there’s more bang for your buck to have an LGBT-positive campaign in a place like Vancouver, so they would devote more resources here – but of course, that does mean they’re not actually doing as much social good as they could be in an area where LGBT rights are less assured.

Top image source: Canadian Pacific on Flickr